Allergen Avoidance in Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis

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What Is Sensitization?

Sensitization is a process that occurs when a person is repeatedly exposed to an allergen and their immune system begins to respond by producing allergic symptoms. Sensitization to one or more indoor allergens (i.e dust mites, cats, dogs, or cockroaches), in combination with an accumulation of allergens in the home, is the strongest risk factor for asthma.

Can Allergen Exposure Impact Asthma?

Scientific evidence shows that allergen exposure and sensitization can lead to asthma. This claim is supported by the fact that when some asthmatics are moved from their homes to a low-allergen environment, they see improvements in allergy and asthma symptoms.

Why Should You Reduce Exposure to Allergens?

Allergists recommend symptomatic patients who have undergone allergy testing and identified specific allergens they are allergic to, to implement an environmental control plan to attempt allergen avoidance. The patient’s home environment should be modified to avoid or eliminate their allergens whenever possible. This process includes actions like removing carpeting, changing heating systems, seeking out professional pest management, and replacing old upholstered furniture.

The ease of implementing these measures varies based on the allergen, as well as the cost and effort involved. For instance, removing old carpeting from the home of a person with dust mite allergies is relatively easy to implement and an effective option. Patients should work with their allergist to develop a plan of action for modifying their home while also discussing the financial considerations.

Steps for allergen avoidance vary based on the patient’s specific allergens. Check out these measures for common allergens.

How to Get Rid of Dust Mites?

Dust mites tend to be found in bedding, sofa, carpets, and other woven materials. Exposure mainly occurs during time spent in bed, on the floor, or on upholstered furniture. Dust mite avoidance has been shown to decrease allergy symptoms. And among children with severe asthma, mite-proof bedding can reduce acute asthmatic episodes that lead to hospitalization.

Effective avoidance measures for dust mites include physical barriers (plastic or synthetic covers for pillows, mattresses, and furniture cushions), humidity control, and eliminating dust harbors. In addition, frequently dusting surfaces and using HEPA filter-equipped vacuums can keep dust levels under control. Humidity control can be achieved through the use of dehumidifiers. Finally, chemicals that kill dust mites, such as tannic acid, can be used for short-term dust control.

How to Reduce Pet Allergens?

Indoor pets are a common allergen source. While dogs and cats account for many of these pets, more exotic pets, such as reptiles, birds, insects, and rodents, can also be a source of allergens. The most effective means of allergen avoidance for pet allergies is to prevent animals from living in the home. Pet dander is the major source of animal allergens. It easily becomes airborne and can spread throughout the house.

That being said, because pets are often considered members of the family, removing them from the home is not possible for many people. While there are methods to limit pet-related allergens, such as keeping pets out of bedrooms and off of furniture, if the pet is in the home, it’s difficult to control allergen exposure. Regular cleaning, vacuuming, and opting for hypoallergenic pets can offer some relief.

Do Rodents and Cockroaches Cause Asthma?

Exposure to rodent allergens during infancy has been associated with asthma development, and exposure control has been linked with better asthma control. Allergen control can be achieved by hiring a professional exterminator and practicing pest management habits, such as storing food and trash in covered containers, sealing cracks in the home, and other preventive measures.

Mice and rats produce urinary products that can cause allergies in homes, schools, and laboratory settings. These allergens are found in nearly all inner-city, multi-family homes and around 50% of suburban homes.

Cockroach exposure is also associated with allergies and asthma, and pest control measures have been shown to be effective. These measures include sticky trap use near food and water sources, frequent cleaning, and disallowing the accumulation of standing water and unwashed dishes. This allergen disproportionately affects patients living in poor conditions who may be exposed to several allergens concurrently.

Can You Limit Exposure to Outdoor Allergens?

Although avoiding contact with the outside world can be difficult for people with outdoor allergens, there are several actions you can take to limit exposure. These include closing windows and doors in the home and car, using air conditioners to filter the air, and staying indoors when pollen counts are high. Changing your clothes upon returning home and showering before bed can also remove allergens from the hair and skin and reduce bedding contamination.

Take Our Allergy Assessment

By understanding the influence of allergen exposure and actively working to reduce your exposure, you can improve allergy and asthma symptoms. But the best method to find long-term relief from your allergies is through sublingual immunotherapy. Take our quick online assessment to see if sublingual immunotherapy is right for you, and be one step closer to long-term allergy relief.


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